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A Jewish Tale for St Patrick's Day

Once upon a time, in the year 1904, in the Irish town of Limerick, there lived a peddler of blankets named Benjamin. Benjamin lived with a friend named Judah, whom he had met years earlier on a ship that brought them from Lithuania to Ireland.

Benjamin and Judah had been friends for many years -- had been friends since their arrival in the Emerald Isle, but Benjamin had begun to suspect Judah of dishonesty and jealousy.

Judah was becoming less of a good friend, and Benjamin tried to avoid him.

Then one day, Benjamin got a letter that informed him that he must travel to Belfast immediately for an important meeting. Benjamin didn't have a bank account, and didn't know what to do with his savings. What should he do with the money he had earned from his blanket sales?

If he took his money with him to Belfast, he might lose it, or he might be robbed of it. If he waited a few days to open a bank account, he would arrive in Belfast too late for the meeting. What could Benjamin do?

Benjamin decided to place his money in a shoebox and bury the shoebox of money in his backyard in the middle of the night. Benjamin fell asleep at sundown, but awoke at midnight when the moon was high and bright. He tiptoed out of his apartment, and walked to his backyard, dug a hole, and buried the shoebox that was filled with his earnings. Benjamin covered the hole with dirt, grass, and shamrocks.

Benjamin then went back to bed, and in the morning he awoke and rushed off to Belfast for his important meeting.

Two weeks later, a few days before Passover started, Benjamin returned to Limerick from Belfast.

As soon as he returned to his apartment, and put down his suitcase, he rushed to the backyard to retrieve the shoebox of money. But guess what? The shoebox and the money were gone. They had disappeared. Did the money magically disappear or was it stolen?

Benjamin immediately suspected that Judah had stolen the money. Judah lived in the same apartment, Judah knew that Benjamin was leaving town for Belfast, and maybe Judah had seen Benjamin bury the shoebox of money.

What could Benjamin do? Should he call the police? Should he call the rabbi? Should he confront and accuse Judah? Benjamin went to his friend Sophie, and asked for her advice.

Sophie recommended that Benjamin ask her friend Maureen. Maureen was a wise woman who also worked as a Judge for the Irish county of Limerick.

Benjamin ran to the home of Maureen, and told her that he suspected his friend Judah of stealing his money.

Maureen sat back in her chair after hearing Benjamin tale.

"Why do you accuse your friend Judah?," asked Maureen. "Did you see Judah steal the money?"

"No, I didn't see him steal the money, for I was in Belfast. But I am so sure he probably spied on me and watched where I buried my shoebox of money," Benjamin told Maureen.

"Well if you thought he was spying on you, why did you still bury the money? Why didn't you bury it someplace else?" Maureen asked.

"I suppose I was in a hurry" answered Benjamin.

Maureen said, "Well Benjamin, just because Judah is not nice to you anymore, and just because he lives in your same apartment, and might have seen you bury your money, does not mean Judah stole your money. Just because Judah had the opportunity to steal the money does not mean he stole it."

"I don't understand" replied Benjamin.

"Well," continued Maureen, "last week, I was in Dublin where a bank was robbed. Just because I was in Dublin, and a bank was robbed in Dublin, does not mean I robbed the bank in Dublin, does it? The same is true for Judah. Just because he lives near the backyard does not mean he stole the money."

Now Benjamin understood.

"Then how can I find who stole the money?," asked Benjamin.

Maureen was a wise judge and told Benjamin the following.

Go home and pretend that you do not know that your money is missing. Invite Sophie over to your apartment for some tea, kuchen and scones. Ask Judah to wait in the next room, for you must tell Sophie a secret. Make sure that Judah can hear you, and then tell Sophie about your trip to Belfast. Tell Sophie, so that Judah can hear, that you were very successful, that you made a business deal and you made a profit of several hundred Irish Pounds. Then tell Sophie that at midnight you will dig up your shoebox in order to add your new profits to the shoebox. If Judah is the real thief, he will greedily return the shoebox of money back to the hole, wait for you to add your new earnings to it, and then steal the original box plus your new earnings.

Benjamin did as Maureen had told him. He told Sophie his "made-up secret" and made sure that Judah could hear. That night, at midnight, Benjamin went to the backyard and dug a hole to find his shoebox. And, lo and behold, the shoebox of his money was there. The thief had returned it, hoping to later steal the additional earnings.

Benjamin took the shoebox, placed the money in his pockets, filled in the hole, and went back to sleep. The next morning he opened a bank account. He also walked to Maureen's home and told her that her advice had worked. The thief had returned the money.

Maureen then told Benjamin, "Well you have lost nothing, and have learned a valuable lesson that a bank is safer than a hole in the ground. And as for the thief..., I recommend that you find a new roommate"

Benjamin listened to Maureen's advice and found a new roommate. Benjamin then went to the rabbi to tell him what had transpired. The rabbi then placed a call on Judah. The rabbi told Judah a bible story about King Saul and King David. About how Saul had descended from the House of Benjamin and King David from the House of Judah. Yet for Israel to survive, the King and his successor had to learn to work together and not plot against each other. The Rabbi told Judah that the future of Israel was in his hands. He must learn to work for rather than against his fellow men and women in Limerick. Judah understood what the rabbi meant. He repented for past mistakes and donated fifty pounds to the Passover food drive, which provided poor people with food for the holiday.




http://www.myjewishbooks.com -- Revised: July 1999
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